The Thumbnail Book Reviews

by John Q McDonald --- 1 December 2003

The Hobbit

or There and Back Again

by J. R. R. Tolkien

This book is perhaps the single one most responsible for a neo-pagan revival that emerged in the 1960s and continues in various ways to this day. The Hobbit was and remains enormously popular, and was the prelude to the Lord of the Rings, which trilogy is now enjoying the cinematic treatment. Bilbo Baggins is a Hobbit, a little person with hairy feet living under a hill in the quiet and quaint Shire on the western edge of Middle Earth. He is beset upon by thirteen dwarves and a towering wizard. They call him an expert burglar and recruit him for an epic journey to the Lonely Mountain, where he is to retrieve the great dwarfish treasure guarded by the dreaded dragon Smaug. Bilbo and his companions endure numerous trecherous adventures along their long journey. There is magic and cursed lands, battles and hidden trickery. On the whole, the book is fantastic (in a couple meanings of the term). It is written like an old mythical tale, for children as well as adults. Tolkien seems to have integrated much of what one imagines is the mythology of old Britain, with elves and dwarves and kings and men, dark forests and looming mountains and black caves. It is wondrous and has spawned a whole industry of faeries and elves, fantasy literature and a modern pagan mysticism. I first read the book when I was just thirteen years old, and perhaps that is the best age at which to first encounter this story. It may become a touchstone of one's youth.

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